Doing more than 29 years in prison, Robert Platshorn was the longest-serving nonviolent prisoner in America's war on weed. He was once part of a small, homegrown smuggling outfit known as "The Black Tuna Gang."
Now out of prison, living in West Palm Beach, and active in the legalization movement, Platshorn (profiled in this cover story two years ago) is beginning what he calls his "Silver Tour." He's speaking to communities of seniors, informing them of the medical and potential social benefits of decriminalizing pot.
"People in my generation have no idea what's going on in the fight to legalize marijuana," Platshorn says.
"Seniors are a forgotten group in marijuana activism, and they have a huge voting power."
Platshorn, whose memoir The Black Tuna Diaries has received positive reviews, is also featured in the forthcoming Rakontur documentary "Square Grouper." He says he's spent the past few months collecting material for his presentation, such as research reports and testimonials.
"Most people think a few people can use it for glaucoma or if they're on the deathbed with cancer," he says. "But the truth is, it can also arrest tumors. It's certainly a lot less dangerous than chemo. It's probably the best reliever of neural pain there is." He says he knows MS patients who use marijuana and have been able to get off all their other medications.
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Platshorn contends Florida could lead the way to legalization on the East Coast. "This area has so many senior communities," he says. "Everyone has a stage and a clubhouse, and they all want to be entertained. I'm an old pitchman: When I talk, people listen."
In his speeches, he plans to explain a bit about the history of pot criminalization, some of the medical benefits, and he'll talk about the decades he spent behind bars. When he can, he'll bring along his friend Irv Rosenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who is one of only two medical marijuana patients in the country receiving pot from the federal government, and at least one doctor or nurse, "an authority figure who can answer questions."
But how will an older generation react to a legalization pitch?
"I really think they'll be energized," Platshorn says. "I think they'll say, 'We're entitled to this. It's not a danger.' These people want to know why their kids and grandkids are in prison for this. And every one of them knows the number of their congressman and city councilman."